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21-year-old Halit Yozgat was assassinated in broad daylight, in his family’s internet cafe on April 6, 2006 in Kassel Germany. Five witnesses were present in the 77 square metre space when Halit was shot twice in the head. Remarkably, an undercover agent from the German secret service was among those present in the cafe at the time of the murder, yet he claimed not to have heard gunfire nor noticed the body slumped at the front desk. A rigorous counter-investigation by London-based research agency Forensic Architecture inspired the Australian composer and director Ben Frost to write the opera The Murder of Halit Yozgat. With his unconventional combination of sound art, electronic music and dark metal, Frost brings a performance in which a sound nobody heard irrevocably ties all of those present together.
With The Murder of Halit Yozgat, the Australian composer Ben Frost (1980), known for his exceedingly diverse oeuvre of experimental and electronic music, has produced his second opera. As with his first
opera, The Wasp Factory (Holland Festival 2014), he decided on a remarkable and particularly dark subject.
The real-life and unsolved murder in an internet cafe in Kassel, where the young Halit Yozgat was shot in the head twice while five patrons were present, retrospectively turned out to fit in a string of racially motivated murders committed by the far right NSU (National Socialist Underground). Andreas Temme, the undercover officer present and one of five witnesses, later stated not to have noticed anything when the murder occurred. He claimed he heard no shots, smelled no gunpowder, and did not notice the lifeless body of Yozgat upon leaving.
The reputable interdisciplinary investigation team ‘Forensic Architecture’ set out to meticulously chart the events and conflicting statements. To this end, a highly detailed timeline was drawn up on the basis of all available information such as the login data of computers and telephones at the scene. A video was made of the different scenarios in the painstakingly recreated internet cafe. The discrepancies in Temme’s statement were particularly striking.
The possible involvement of police officials in the far right activities of the NSU, i.e. ‘NSU Complex’, is a point of political and social contention. Can the truth still be brought to light? According to Ismail Yozgat, the victim’s father, there are only two possibilities: “Either Mr Temme killed my son himself, or he saw who killed my son”.
The ingenious reconstruction of what might have happened during those 9.26 minutes on the 77 square meters of the internet cafe was presented as an artwork in 2016 at Documenta 14 in Kassel and was nominated for the prestigious Turner prize.
In The Murder of Halit Yozgat, Frost follows the blueprint of the investigation team. The audience is taken through the disparate perspectives of various witnesses in which the gunshots are the only sure thing: the fact that binds all present. What did the shots sound like in different parts of the cafe? Did the mother and her child see anything of the crime? And what about the teenagers playing videogames in the back? In the end, the audience becomes an eye and earwitness in this search for the truth and in the failure to ever learn it.
In his work as a composer and stage director, Frost is constantly looking for new ways to combine music and performance. In The Murder of Halit Yozgat, a theatre production in the Game Changers series from the Hannover State Theatre, in co-production with the Holland Festival, he combines acoustic and electronic sound with spoken word and singing. The mainly German libretto was written by Daniela Danz. Frost’s experimental sound art incorporates much more than just music and really comes into its own in the theatre. Regarding the production of his previous opera, he said: “I don’t make the voice of a string quintet any more prominent than the hissing of a snake or the cracking of ice”. According to the Dutch newspaper NRC, Frost’s play demonstrated “the wealth of possibilities for musical theatre not just to move emotionally but also to get under your skin and truly unsettle”.
Ben Frost is a Composer, Producer, Sound Artist and Director. Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1980 and based since the early 2000’s in Reykjavík Iceland, Frost was mentored by Brian Eno in the Rolex Arts
Initiative. Frost is known for his minimalist, instrumental and experimental music with influences ranging from classical minimalism to punk rock and black metal. His work includes the studio albums Theory of Machines (2007), By The Throat (2009), A U R O R A (2014) and The Centre Cannot Hold (2017) and spans an array of other forms including installations, live performance, scores for dance, theatre, and various studio collaborations. He has composed several scores for film including the Palme d’Or nominated Sleeping Beauty, the series’ Fortitude and Dark. Most recently he composed the score for Raised By Wolves with director Ridley Scott.
Over the past decade Frost has collaborated most extensively with the Irish visual artist Richard Mosse, producing the award-winning multi-channel video and sound installations The Enclave (2013) and Incoming (2017) which on display at SFMOMA in February this year. Frost’s directorial debut The Wasp Factory (2013, Holland Festival 2014), was performed to capacity audiences at London’s Royal Opera House. In 2020 he presents The Murder of Halit Yozgat - A new opera based on research agency Forensic Architecture’s counter-investigation of a neo-nazi assassination for the Staatsoper Hannover and Holland Festival. Frost also recently joined the touring lineup of the band SWANS with whom he has previously collaborated in the studio.
Staatsoper Hannover and Schauspiel Hannover jointly form the Lower Saxony State Theatre Hannover GmbH, one of the largest multidisciplinary theatres in Germany. Each year, around 1300 events are hosted at three locations, ranging from opera to theatre, ballet, concerts, and youth theatre; these draw some 400,000 visitors. Staatsoper Hannover and Schauspiel Hannover collaborate with internationally known artists and present an innovative program that draws attention from far beyond the region. With its new ensemble of thirty, Schauspiel Hannover, led by Sonja Anders, has an extensive repertoire that includes both outstanding premieres and classic material and theatre in a modern narrative style. As of this season, the Staatsoper is led by Laura Berman.
Diversity is key for the program of the ensemble, which has an international composition - the Staatsoper engages in dialogue with the city and the European opera scene. Besides modern interpretations of the standard repertoire, the Staatsoper yields world premieres and musical excursions between different genres and formats for younger audiences. The State Ballet is led by Marco Goecke, who makes art for the twenty-first century that bears his distinctive mark. In addition to his own productions, he collaborates with younger colleagues and invites well-known choreographers to come to Hannover. The Lower Saxony State Orchestra Hannover is both an operatic and concert orchestra. Besides accompanying opera, ballet and giving symphonic concerts, the orchestra also plays chamber music and children’s concerts at special locations outside the Staatsoper.
- based on
- the counter investigation 77sqm_9:26min
by Forensic Architecture
- Ben Frost
- Daniela Danz
- set design
- Lisa Däßler,
- Kerstin Krüger
- Dan Bora
- Yvonne Gebauer,
- commissioned by
- Staatsoper Hannover
- Schauspiel Hannover, Holland Festival